The competition is fierce this year! Who will win the greatest game of the year on Superb OWL Sunday?! Take a look at the species who call Wildlife Images home to pick your favorite!
Superb OWL Facts
- Interestingly, an owl’s eye color can indicate when it hunts. Generally, species with yellow or orange eyes are crepuscular, whereas species with dark brown eyes are more active at night. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but it is still a good general indication.
- Owls can rotate their necks 270 degrees.
- Asymmetrical ears are a feature that allows owls to be such incredible hunters. This adaptation allows them to narrow in on prey with deadly accuracy.
- The serrated edge of owls’ feathers allow them to fly silently, unlike other birds of prey.
Superb OWL Residents
Eurasian Eagle Owl
Eurasian eagle owls are one of the largest species of owls in the world; while great gray owls have longer bodies and Blakiston’s fish owls are often heavier, Eurasian eagle owls have the largest wingspan. They are widespread throughout many parts of Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. Eagle owls prefer wooded habitats but are also found near grasslands, steppes, and urban areas. Similarly, while they primarily hunt small mammals, these impressive predators are also known to hunt woodpeckers, herons, reptiles, fish, and even other raptors. Eagle owls are also known for their strikingly-colored eyes, which are a vibrant orange.
Kokoro (F) Hatched: 2001 | Arrived: 2001 | Educational Animal Ambassador
Kokoro was hatched in human care at the World Bird Sanctuary, in St. Louis, Missouri. We acquired her at the age of 1 year for our educational programs. Her name translates to “heart” or “spirit” in Japanese.
Huuhkajat (F) Hatched: 2000 | Arrived: November, 2005 | Off display
That’s “hoo-OO-ky-ah,” in case you’re wondering: the Finnish word for eagle owl. She was born into the WBS’s captive breeding program and sent to WLI. She flourishes outside and off display, so she is not typically on the tour path.
Eurasian Tawny Owl
Tawny owls are a common Eurasian species, found throughout Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. They are well-adapted to hunting at night, with almost black eyes that can detect even small amounts of light, as well as incredibly acute hearing. They typically wait quietly on a perch for prey to pass by, then quickly swoop down and seize them with their powerful feet. They have also been known to beat their wings against bushes to startle small birds into flight. Tawny owls hunt a variety of species, including rabbits, small rodents, worms, insects, small birds, bats, frogs, fish, reptiles, molluscs, and crustaceans. Although they are adept predators, their small size also leaves them vulnerable to predation from other raptors and mammals, such as pine martens or red foxes.
Boris (M) Hatched: 2003 | Arrived: November 2005 | Education Animal Ambassador
Boris came to us from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, MI. His gentle disposition makes him a fantastic educational ambassador for his species and for owls in general.
Great Horned Owl
The great horned owl is the most common owl of the Americas, easily identified by the iconic feather tufts on its head. While these are often referred to as horns or ears, they are actually just feather tufts called “plumicorns.” It’s thought that they help with camouflage, since they help break up the silhouette of the owl’s head and give it a more jagged, bark-like appearance. Relative to their size, great horned owls have an incredibly strong grip strength, ranging from 200 to 500 psi. This is comparable to the strength of a bald eagle! This powerful grip, along with their impressive camouflage and silent flight, allows these birds to be incredibly well-adapted predators. Great horned owls pursue an impressively wide range of prey, including small rodents, hares, waterfowl, porcupines, skunks, ravens, songbirds, scorpions, reptiles, fish, and other raptors. While typically most active at night, these opportunistic hunters are known to hunt even in broad daylight, depending on prey behavior and availability.
Buddy (F) Hatched: 1999 | Arrived: May 1999 | Educational Animal Ambassador
Buddy arrived at our facility as a very young chick. Unfortunately, she didn’t develop the necessary behaviors to care for herself in the wild. Despite this, she has been an amazing ambassador for her species and periodically serves as a foster mom when we have young great horned owl chicks come into the clinic! Buddy was presumed to be male for many years due to her small size, but she eventually began laying eggs. Similar to chickens, other bird species are capable of laying unfertilized eggs, which Buddy now does every year at the end of the winter.
Western Screech Owl
Western screech owls are a small species of owl common throughout the West. They are closely related to their eastern counterpart, the Eastern Screech Owl, but make different vocalizations. Contrary to their name, western screech owls don’t actually make a “screeching” noise; their primary call is a descending series of whistled notes that ends with a short trill. These small but tenacious hunters are primarily crepuscular, pursuing small mammals, birds, fish, bats, and a wide range of invertebrates. Due to their small size, they are also predated by larger animals such as hawks, skunks, snakes, or larger owls. Luckily, screech owls have excellent camouflage that helps them blend into the tree bark, allowing them to stay concealed from both predators and prey. Like many small birds, western screech owls are cavity nesters. They occupy holes created by woodpeckers or naturally-occuring crevices.
Van Gogh (F) Hatched: Unknown | Arrived: October 2010 | Educational Animal Ambassador
Van Gogh was discovered in the road by a passing motorist, conscious and coherent but with severe injuries to the left side of her head. Unfortunately, many screech owls are hit by cars, especially during the winter months; headlights illuminate insects on roadways, enticing screech owls right into the path of oncoming vehicles. Van Gogh had to have one eye removed, but this alone wouldn’t have prevented her from being released. Her more serious injury was a damaged eardrum, which would prevent her from accurately locating prey while hunting.